The Undiscovered Country

Sweeps Week Trailer

FADE IN

Rima singing a song of healing.

The song continues over…

No Name conjuring a sphere of flame

Mawgojzeta slipping naked into a hot spring

Mortimer operating the Spellforge

The Bard bursting up out of the river, long hair arcing perfectly behind him in a spray of water

Song fades out

Carreg, No Name and The Bard, motionless on the cavern floor, surrounded by minotaurs

MINOTAUR LEADER
Kill them.

High tempo, percussive music over rapid jump cuts of…

Jack, shirt ripped open, chest glistening, leaping over a darkened chasm

A fire bolt flaring from Carreg’s outstretched hand

Water rushing into the cavern

Music cuts out

Mawgojzeta landing in the cave in a hero pose, leather glistening wet

NO NAME
Why should we trust you?

Music resumes

Mortimer, feverishly packing his maps, looking over his shoulder at the oncoming minotaurs

Jack firing eldritch blasts from his hands

Carreg swinging her hammer at a charging minotaur

A cone of magical energy shooting from the beholder’s eye

Music ends abruptly

THE BARD
An eye for an eye till the world goes blind?

Titles: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY

The glassstaffs forming up for combat outside the cave

CLAUSIS
Kill everything.

FADE OUT

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Excerpt from Langhale, et al. (1257)

Of this remarkable fragment, not much is known. It appears to predate by far all current worship, and is written in a script no longer extant.¹ Its medium is unique in the literature: it is stamped in an metal that eludes our attempts at identification², a sheet almost half an inch in thickness. Despite its apparent robustness, it is nonetheless an incomplete fragment of a single page of an evidently much larger book. Discovery of any further fragments would be a major archeological find of this century.

¹ Langhale, et al., ’56
² ibid.

bartholemew.jpg

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The Bard

There is much rumour and conjecture as to the true identity of ‘The Bard’. Some surmise he was the son of the Kings council, who disappeared from school not many years before stories of his fame surface. This idea prompted many young nobles to lay claim to the title, all shown to be fraudulent, mer bar room boasts. Yet the roumor young Eugenics Fairborn frew of his noble name remains. It remains for this chronicler, with no confirmation, to conclude this hero of old will remain anonymous. His name Bard stands next to his famous companions.

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Season 4 Session 14

In the semi-ruined town hall, in the course of looting the place for valuables, Anarië finds an arcane deck of cards. Her attempts to conceal this from her colleagues are unsuccessful, and soon Tuakiin and Kai are pestering her to draw a card – or to let them draw some. She is adamant in her refusal, and soon Vani arrives after retrieving her cat from its wanderings around the drowned city, interrupting the bickering.

They decide they have rested enough, and need to take the fight to the enemy once more. Going up to the rooftop, Anarië sees four boats filled with hobgoblins and lizardmen, heading from the bell tower to the town hall. She casually destroys two of the boats with a fireball, and the other two peel off, evidently planning a pincer movement on the town hall. Kai is convinced he can hear strange sounds, like stone grinding on stone, but the others dismiss this.

Rather than wait for the enemy, the party pile into two boats and make a direct line towards the bell tower, at the top of which are a clutch of hobgoblin archers. As the party advance on them, the hobgoblins shoot volley after volley of arrows, but to little effect. Tuakiin and Lubash are too busy rowing to do much about it, but Vani peppers one unfortunate hobgoblin with arrows while Anarië calls out to the leader that this is his one chance to leave this place and get away with his life.

Vani’s arrows hit home more effectively than Anarië’s words – the hobgoblin captain is arrogant enough to talk rudely back even to a group of heroes who have, as Anarië quite reasonably points out, already killed a dragon today.

So battle it is, and as the party closes range they open up with more missile and magical attacks. The boats that were heading to the town hall have turned round by now and are following them, but for now the party concentrates on the hobgoblins in the bell tower. Kai’s strange perceptions are becoming stronger – more sounds of grinding stone, the aroma of cherry blossom – and he begins to realise that these are sensations of home. He is being called back to his monastery, the twenty stone pillars are turning one by one, and when they have all turned he will be transported home in a moment.

Tuakiin and Anarië are the first to arrive at the bell tower, disembarking on the wooden walkway that leads up to the hobgoblins’ location. Anarië presses herself back against the wall to keep out of the line of sight, but this is too little avail when the hobgoblins swarm down the walkway – all except their captain, who continues to taunt from his high position. Until, that is, Kai runs up the vertical surface, grabs him and throws him over his shoulders into the water before gently descending to the platform. Another stone pillar grinds round.

The hobgoblin captain is more discomfited than injured by this. Anarië’s scroll of Lightning Blast has a more permanent effect, killing him instantly along with two of the hobgoblins next to Anarië, and demonstrating to him decisively that the sorceress is as good as her word.

Meanwhile Tuakiin is holding the front line against the hobgoblins from the upper level, taking them apart one by one while they fail to land a blow on him thanks to a potion of strength he quaffed as he approached the tower. Lubash and Vani are followed onto the deck by two boatloads of hobgoblins and lizardmen, and a lengthy melee ensues in which the enemy are gradually whittled down by sword, hammer, bow and elemental fire. Throughout the battle, as he fights and wins each combat, Kai hears more stone pillars grind round.

During this pitched battle, there is activity on a rooftop some 150 feet away. The flashes of arcane energy indicate that this is where the teleport circle is located, and it is in use. Disengaging from the combat by means of a couple of well-placed electric shocks, Anarië goes up to the top level to observe.

A group of a dozen zombie-like creatures come through the teleport circle, led by a black Dragonborn. He observes the combat through some magnifying device, then leaves again through the teleport, leaving the zombies massing on the rooftop.

It seems clear that the longer the party leave this teleport circle in operation, the more reinforcements are going to arrive. Anarië uses a scroll of Misty Step to reach a rooftop in range of the zombies and destroys most of them with a fireball. Vani picks off the survivors. Then, as soon as the enemies at the bell tower have been vanquished, with only a single wounded hobgoblin swimming away and escaping alive to tell the tale, the party take to their boats once more and row towards the teleport circle as quickly as they can manage.

Which is not quite quickly enough. No sooner have they reached the rooftop, and are busy clambering up from their boats to reach the teleport circle, than a pair of wyverns fly out of it to attack them. Fortunately, the wyverns have to come within sword and hammer range to attack, and are poor at evading blasts of sorcerous fire, allowing the party to dispatch them quickly and get to work on the teleport circle before more trouble arrives. Kai swiftly destroys the circle with his earthbending powers – and hears yet another stone pillar turn.

Kai knows now that his quest in these lands is complete, and his homecoming cannot be further delayed. He makes an emotional farewell, pledging his monastery’s alliance with the Kingdom of Arnest and embracing Vani particularly closely. Then, the young monk vanishes, once a boy, now a man.

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Season 4 Session 13

Our heroes – Mortimer, Jack, No Name, Rima, The Bard and Günther – stand in a room amidst the bodies of the bugbears they have just slaughtered. The sound of approaching minotaurs is getting closer. Meanwhile, Carreg is still in the temple chamber, copying the stone map in ever more detail, oblivious to the oncoming danger.

Günther searches the lead bugbear for the key to the door – he finds a key , but there is no time to find out what lock it fits. The Bard conjures a cloud of daggers at the bottom of the stairs leading up towards the room, in the hope of slowing the minotaurs down, and Jack adds a further obstacle in the form of writhing, eldritch tentacles reaching out from every surface in that area.

After a quick and heated debate, the party decide to go back to the temple to get Carreg, and then attempt an escape. Günther and Jack remain behind to cover their exit, taking up positions by the corners at the top of the stairs while the others rush off.

Looking down the stairs, Günther and Jack can see that the minotaurs are gathering but not advancing, presumably waiting for the spells to end before continuing their assault. They take pot-shots at any minotaurs who stray into the line of sight, causing a few injuries and encouraging them all to keep down and out of sight.

In the temple, Carreg is determined to carry on map-making until the last possible moment, if not beyond. The rest of the party prepare to be attacked, apart from No Name who puts her wilderness skills to good use with some remarkably efficient map-making.

With the spells about to fade, Günther urges Jack to rejoin the others. Jack heads back down the corridor to the temple, where the map-making continues apace.

The daggers and tentacles vanish, and the minotaurs charge. Günther blocks their advance, shooting rapid-fire crossbow bolts at the two in the front rank and bottling the other 28 up behind them. There is only one way this mismatched combat is going to go, but Günther uses all of his endurance and the last of his luck to hold them back as long as possible.

At last, the party in the temple decide it is time to move out. Carreg is still reluctant, but Mortimer forces the issue by grabbing all the map pages with his disembodied hands and running down the corridor towards the bugbear cave, beyond which is darkness. The others follow, No Name transforming herself into a wolf for an extra turn of speed.

Running through the darkened corridor, they quickly come to edge of a collapsed section, with a stream running down into it and two tunnel entrances on the other side – one rough and one finely finished in stone. The chasm is narrower near the rough entrance, so they party all jump across in that direction, safely making it into the tunnel.

After making the jump, Mortimer hesitates. Should he go back for Günther? He could easily return to the stairway by magical means, albeit expending some power that he may well need later, and putting himself into mortal danger in the process.

Just then, a vision of the great mushroom demon appears to him. “If the Nisse wishes to sacrifice himself,” she says, “I have other plans for him.”

The vision fades. Mortimer interprets her words to mean that she has plans for Günther post mortem, and turns to rejoin his colleagues who are exploring down the corridor.

Günther’s last stand, meanwhile, is coming to an end. A minotaur’s greataxe swings straight into him, inflicting a mighty, and mortal, blow. As the strength leaves his body, he just manages to whisper his final words:

“It’s hard to be a Nissemand…”

Thirty pairs of hooves trample over him, crushing his lifeless body into pulp.

The surviving members of the party soon find themselves by an underground shoreline, looking at the waves on the sea. There is another corridor leading off, and a stairway going upwards. The cave has tide marks around seven feet up the walls, and Carreg’s extensive subterranean experience allows her to deduce that the water periodically floods this cave – and that the next flood is coming soon.

The way up the second corridor is blocked by a solid metal barrier, evidently opened by means of an old and rusted mechanism that none of the party can manage to shift. While they are trying to move it, Rima stealthily scouts up the stairs, finding a room with a set of large double doors, emanating from which is a green spectral glow.

Brute force may have failed to turn the opening mechanism, but magic prevails, and soon the metal barrier is raised. Beyond it is a large cavern with a deep, wide pit in which is another old and broken mechanism that seems to be some kind of water wheel. Mortimer is convinced this must be the Spell Forge, operated by allowing water to flow into this room at high tide. He sets about trying to repair the mechanism.

But no sooner has he started work than a floating, glowing skull rises into the air from the mud at the far end of the cavern. It cackles maniacally as it approaches, while behind it a dozen zombies pull themselves out of the mud.

The skull drops a fireball on Mortimer’s position, blasting everyone around the mechanism but causing no casualties. None of Mortimer or Carreg’s magical attacks seem to damage the skull, and the zombies are getting closer.

The party begins to panic. Rima blasts most of the zombies back over a precipice at the rear of the cavern before retreating with No Name towards the stairs. Jack follows, pausing only to toss a silver mask to Mortimer – the same mask that used to control an undead mage. Mortimer puts it on, and nearly succumbs to its power before he can remove it, but is treated to a horrifying vision of the enemy forces – numberless pits full of undead, directed by hundreds of battle mages with glass staffs.

At the top of the stairs, the fleeing adventurers come face to face with the occupant of the room behind the glowing doors – a Beholder!

Jack calls out to it “Father!”, which baffles it so much it decides to let him live. By great good fortune, Rima’s insouciance is even more perplexing to it, and it returns to behind its doors, warning that it should not be disturbed again.

Back in the cavern, the skull finally succumbs to attack and explodes in a burst of fragments – just as a group of minotaurs appears at the far end of the cave, having reached this place by an a alternative route…

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Unhappily Ever After

Months ago:

Rose finally dared to cough. The ash had mostly settled, and the barn she had hid in beneath their spare pews had only been slightly burnt. Unlike the chapel, unlike their mission.

Rose slipped out of hiding and looked over their little village of Newhope that had grown up north of the Orclands. It had been put to the torch. Not a building stood. A few women and children milled in a daze wondering what had happened to their world. They had followed Telia and Ross… Rose… they had believed them when they said they would settle the Northern territories and start a new town in The One’s name, bring civilisation and faith to the new frontier, save souls. Now women and children stood lost, their menfolk slaughtered or slaved.

Women and children.

Rose realised she stood because she fell into the group of “not a threat”… Unlike Telia who had probably stepped in front of their biggest asshole and picked a fight to get recognised as a threat, Rose had been unable to fight for her love or her church because no one even cared enough to fight her.

The he appeared, spoke to her gently. He didn’t make her feel like everything would be alright, but that just maybe, The One knew of the wrongs, and they would be righted, in time.

She after speaking to him she ran back inside the ruins of the barn, amongst the unused chapel supplies. Found a big leather bound codex, tore out the pages by the handful, roaring with grief and saturating most with hails of tears, till the last unmarked pages remained, then Rose wrote:

“I write my own ledger now for I fear what will happen to the final document I take to face The One.

My perfect life has been destroyed, torn apart by evil, so I have given wholly of myself, what was left of my life, that it might destroy evil. I have sworn my soul to heaven and my body to an oath of vengeance, to bring all the fury of Heaven above down on those who robbed me of my simple happiness. Now my hate is made manifest in my blade and by my blade I live.

For a time, we had roses, it was perfect. After the assault on Homlet, we assumed the worst had been defeated, Telia and I traveled north, beyond the Orc-lands… where human settlements are simple and honest enough to pay no mind to two young “men” that share a hut. Telia ministered to the villages. I worked with the good folk from three around to build our church. We brought The One to those who couldn’t have heard his peace, and for a time, it was good.

Then we saw the banners on the horizon. We called out to The One, Telia, she tried to get message to those heroes she had fought beside, but there was no time.

Their armies of hell fell upon us, upon our quiet little Parrish before we could offer any resistance. Telia, in Armor and with the power of Him, behind her… she was a target for them, she fought back with The One’s might… they just made an example of her, she was defiled before me on the altar of the church we built.

I was left, mocked, a child, no threat.

I offered everything I was, there and then, to any force of heaven that would hear me, I sought not only the power of The One but righteous fury! That I might enact His judgement on the Red Hand!

As I wept a bright being came to me, he gave his name as Liminus, an angel of He who is called I AM! He offered me a blade of burning golden fire, that I might strike down the enemies of The One. I took the blade and made a pact with him. I hold His blade now, I am His instrument of justice!

I cannot swear my life only to wielding this sword of justice however, my young soul cries out for vengeance! One day soon as my soul is sworn to heaven I will swear my body on a bitter oath against the Red Hand general that defiled my lady and my church. Then the world will know the wrath of The One thy god by his mortal servant!

I hide no more, I am not Ross but Rose, past be damned I take the name Blacksworn, for I pledge myself to the family of my lover and her vengeance!”

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As I live and breathe

Mortimer held the silver mask in his 4 fingered hands for a moment and thought to himself “Jack’s a genius” Mortimer had seen the battle mages wearing these masks and commanding armies of undead. Surely here then was the source of their necromantic control, a secret he must master if he was to truly command those restored to undeath.

He slipped the mask on. The fit was clumsy, made for taller leaner human features than his squat head and large nose. The effect however was certainly not lacking. Mortimer had heard your life flashes before your eyes when you die, so when someone else’s played out before him instead, he was not worried.

He saw the followers of Acererak perfecting his teachings, amassing armies of the undead, reading for war, marching followers across the barrier. It was true, it was all true, Acererak had discovered the power over life and death. A power that would be Mortimer Greysproket’s for the mastering. Sure the East and West might have to fall, to once again rise to the high wonders and Magic and Science that had once made the West the wonder he had only read and dreamt about, but that was worth it, surely?!

Beneath the mask, Mortimer smiled.

As he watched he saw the chosen of the Battle Mages gift the silver masks to those that would become their… But there was something else, something wrong, he wasn’t witnessing an anointing he was witnessing a sacrifice! The masks killed their wearers and…

The realisation came to late, Mortimer felt the cold magic touch his heart and his excitement and hope turned to mortal dread as he realised he had failed, failed and now he must face the thing that truly held terror before all others for the diminutive wizard: His own mortality.

“Jack’s an idiot!”

In his panic Mortimer’s mind raced, eXistential Markup raced through his genius brain as his will to live, his will never to feel the grave’s chill embrace, formed from the Necromancy he knew a final spelt to keep his soul ‘alive’ within his own undead risen form, now the end looked so near.

His last breath shaped the energies of the grave into his last desperate workings, and then…

The gnome breathed again, damp cold cave air.

He could barely move, barely breath, he was shaking, but he was alive, and it was time to keep it that way.

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I'm A Beholder!

The Beholder slunk back to its lair in a confused daze. What had just happened? Things had certainly not gone to plan, that was sure. After sensing intruders in the vicinity, it had expected a small diversion, fresh snacks and a return to its favourite dark corner. What it had not been anticipating was a chat!

Where to start. It frowned its eyes….even if it had offspring, it thought indignantly, they definitely wouldn’t have so few eyes and so many limbs! Though, it conceded, the strange dark aura that one gave off was vaguely familiar. And as for the gobby one – since when was it ok to treat meeting a Beholder like you’d dropped by to borrow a barrel of zombies. Even the hairy one didn’t flee in terror.

It shuddered. Perhaps it was losing its touch!

It blinked its eyes in disbelief and tried not to grind its teeth. It needed to pull itself together, especially if there really were others wandering around. It was some time since it had tasted minotaur, but it recalled they were delicious. Plus – if that mouthy creature was still around…there would be repercussions!

As that thought lingered….unbidden, from somewhere in the depths of its mind, a strange melody drifted. It seemed familiar somehow, but it couldn’t think why. It grew louder, more insistent, until the temptation to shout out words of accompaniment was almost unbearable.

People think I’m just a myth or fairy tale,
Used to scare the children into line.
Folks were out to get me,
That’s the way it seemed,
Still I loved to hear their screams.

People see my eyes – yeah I’m the Beholder.
There’s every trace,
Of fear in their minds.
I’m so tough – Yeah!
I’m A Beholder, I could’ve told ya, I’m alive!

Thought I was the biggest, baddest, scary thing,
Feared throughout the wide far lands and more.
Remember I ain’t lying,
As you lie there dying.
Don’t you think that you can mess with me!

When ya see my eyes – yeah I’m the Beholder.
There’s every trace,
Of fear in your minds.
I’m so tough – Yeah!
I’m A Beholder,I could’ve told ya, you will die

When ya see my eyes – yeah I’m the Beholder.
There’s every trace,
Of fear in your minds.
I’m so tough – Yeah!
I’m A Beholder, I could’ve told ya, I’m alive!

Almost as suddenly as it had begun, the melody began to disappear, like smoke from a corpse.

If there were minotaurs in Wave Echo Cave who dared to disturb its rest, or if the little strange ones were to return…

The Beholder bared its teeth in as close to a smile as it could manage.

Then the real music would begin.

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TODO

• Heal colony of the Grey Disease
⤷ Travel Arnest, consult spiritual leaders
⤷ Investigate spiritual consequences of Barrier
Prevent onslaught of Red Hand Hommlet safe for now
Travel Westerlands, consult spiritual leaders gods are dead in the West
⤷ Morningstar is going to have died, resurrect?
⤷ Locate Acererak’s remains
Locate map to Acererak’s remains ✔︎
Investigate Wave Echo Cave ✔︎ nb: gateways to Grey Wastes/Hell are possible

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I will survive
I just got rid of all my magic and now I'm surrounded by murder

At first I was afraid
I was petrified
Surrounded by Minotaur
On every side
But then I spent so many nights
Thinking how father did me wrong
And I grew strong
And I learned music to get along
And so Im back
From a sandy place
I just walked in to find Minotaur here
And that sad look upon your face
We should have changed that stupid lock
We should have thrown away the key
If I had known for just one second
Monsters would bother me

Mage magics out the door
I’ll not turn around now
‘Cause magics not welcome anymore
At school they who tried to hurt me
I said goodbye
Did they think I’d crumble
Did you think I’d lay down and die
Oh no, not I
I will survive
Oh as long as I know how to music
I know I’ll stay alive
I’ve got all my life to play
I’ve got all my songs to give
And I’ll survive
I will survive (hey-hey)

It took all the strength I had
Not to fall apart
Kept trying hard to mend
The pieces of my broken lute
And I spent oh so many nights
Just feeling sorry for myself
I used to cry
But now I hold my head up high
And you see me
Somebody new
I’m not that chained up little boy
Learning magic just you
And so we ever meet again
Just expect me to be free
And now I’m saving all my power
Play music for people loving me

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